The resort said it came to its decision after consulting with Native Americans, including the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral lands encompass Squaw Valley’s location in Lake Tahoe.
“The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the native people, of the Washoe people,” Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s a constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It’s a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else, and we don’t agree with it.”
“The simple fact is that the word ‘squaw’ is now widely accepted as a racial and sexist slur towards indigenous women, and we can no longer ignore the pain caused by perpetuating the use of this term, regardless of intent,” Cohen said.
Founded in 1949, Squaw Valley began as a small operation but was transformed after a long-shot bid to host the 1960 Winter Games was approved by the International Olympic Committee. In men’s hockey, the U.S. team pulled off something of a miracle 20 years before its shocker in Lake Placid, N.Y. At Squaw Valley, unheralded Team USA sprung upsets against Czechoslovakia, Canada and the Soviet Union en route to the gold medal.
Technological innovations that emerged from the 1960 event included (per olympic.org) instant replay after judges asked for CBS’s help to determine whether a skier missed a gate in a slalom event. In addition, quartz timers were first used to measure to a hundredth of a second, and computers were first used to produce and print event standings.
In a nod to the developing space race, Olympic organizing committee head Prentis C. Hale said in a speech at the opening ceremony: “You can return home as the world’s best-equipped ambassadors of unity and peace. Before we pay so much attention to conquering outer space, we should devote ourselves to conquering inner space: the distance between nations.”
In his letter Tuesday, Cohen said “the founders of our resort had no intentions of causing offense in choosing this name for the resort, nor have any of our patrons who have spoken this word over the last seven decades.”
“[Cohen] is sincere about the feelings of the tribe and what it means,” Cruz, whose tribe has pushed in the past for the name change, said, per sfgate.com. “It’s almost like a wound being healed once they remove that name.”
The resort said that while the term has been “a topic of discussion for many years,” it decided to change its name now amid the national reckoning on racial and social justice.
“With the momentum of recognition and accountability we are seeing around the country, it is clear that the time has come for us to fully acknowledge and confront the reality of this word,” the resort said, citing seven states that, since 1995, have passed laws or made other efforts to remove the word “squaw” from official names.
Numerous terms and symbols of oppression of Native Americans and Black people have been removed or replaced over the past few months, including a decision in July by Washington’s NFL team to drop an offensive name it had used since 1933.